Creative writing classes online are readily available for those who believe the old cliché that everyone has a novel inside them. But learning creative writing, while it requires hard work, really isn’t that difficult, and studying as a member of a group is not essential. Anyone can do it who has the self-discipline to sit down and write, even for a short time, day after day.
Learning Creative Writing
A writer, it is often said, is someone who writes. But the best of all tips on writing a novel is this: a writer is someone who reads. No one will ever write anything worthwhile without being a voracious reader, and fiction publishers instantly spot (and instantly reject) the work of non-readers.
Given wide reading and a command of the nuts and bolts of the language, there are many ways of learning creative writing. There are writers’ groups everywhere, including many creative writing classes online. And at the top of the tree there are prestigious courses such as that of the University of East Anglia.
But the truth is that structured study in creative writing workshops is by no means essential. Tolstoy made no formal study of fiction writing, nor did Jane Austen, George Eliot or James Joyce. Their creative writing ideas came simply from reading and writing.
Of the two, writing is much the harder. Recognising this, American author Dorothea Brande, more than three-quarters of a century ago, wrote Becoming a Writer, the book which offers more useful tips on writing a novel than any other.
Creative Writing Ideas
Dorothea Brande pours scorn on the notion – maintained even today by some fiction publishers – that novel writing is a gift possessed only by a tiny élite. On the contrary, she says, learning creative writing is possible for anyone who is prepared to make the effort.
She emphasises the two things which any novelist must achieve: the habit of regular writing, and contact with the unconscious. To begin with lessons on development of plot and character – often the stuff of creative writing workshops – was, in Dorothea Brande’s opinion, to put the cart before the horse.
Perhaps her most important creative writing idea is that the wannabe novelist should write at a fixed time and for a fixed length of time every day. All excuses – the mood is wrong, the mind is blank, there are more important things to do – must be set aside. Anyone who fails in this task, she says, should give up all thoughts of becoming a writer.
She emphasises the importance of tapping into the unconscious, to achieve which she recommends getting up half an hour early every day, and spending that extra half hour writing uncritically.
Such advice is invaluable to any author. Indeed, Dorothea Brande’s tips on writing a novel are as relevant for the seasoned professional as for the beginner.
Anyone who manages to put her advice into effect is well on the way to writing a first novel. Those who get this far might then benefit from the sort of practice which is available from creative writing workshops or from creative writing classes online.
From these, the beginner can practise the development of plot and character, and learn how to write dialogue. There is also the bonus of getting feedback from other enthusiastic writers. Creative writing ideas abound where writers come together.